MORE than 500 cyclists participated in the Bass Coast Cycle Challenge on Saturday – the most since the event began.
Riders completed a 111km, 85km, 53km or 42km route through the picturesque hills of South Gippsland and Bass Coast and finished with views over Andersons Inlet.
It was, quite literally, a breathtaking ride for many of the participants.
Amongst them was first timer Patrice Butinar of Dalyston.
Patrice, who will turn 60 this week, bought her first bike at Christmas. She hadn’t been cycling for 50 years.
Patrice was the winner of the Bass Coast Cycle Challenge’s Early Bird Registration raffle.
The prize was two wheels valued at $1800, but since she’s a new rider, Patrice swapped it for two bikes.
“I’m not sure I’m worthy of the bike, since I haven’t really been cycling for 50 years. I hope the other cyclists don’t mind,” she laughed.
“I’m not usually a road cyclist – I’m not too confident, I prefer the rail trail but the Bass Coast Cycle Challenge is the perfect opportunity to ride with all the support and so many other riders.”
Patrice completed the 42km ride on Saturday with around 100 other cyclists.
Event coordinator Gavin Slavin said the community support of the event continues to grow with over 500 riders participating – last year there were 323.
The riders were supported by at least 50 volunteers from Lions Wonthaggi and Inverloch, Rotary Inverloch, Leongatha and Wonthaggi, Wonthaggi Surf Life Saving Club, Coastal Cruisers and Wonthaggi SES.
The volunteers marshalled at corners, manned refreshment stations, set up and packed everything away, made muffins and fruitcakes, helped with registration, provided support around the Inverloch hub and manned barbecues.
It was a demanding day for the volunteers, but a role they see as vital.
“The Bass Coast Cycle Challenge raises money for the RYDA Program,” Slavin said.
“Each program costs around $4000 to run and we’ve been lucky enough to have funded four programs so far – we have another five already booked in.
“The RYDA program educates our Year 11 and 12 students before they start driving; the courses cover such issues as choices they make before they get behind the wheel, hazards and distractions, stopping distance, questions to consider when buying a car and finishes with a guest speaker, someone w ho has been affected by a car accident.
“It’s a fantastic program and the best I’ve ever seen; we’re so proud to be a part of it.”
There were a few special guests on the Challenge this year – former Tour de France competitor and now SBS cycling commentator David McKenzie, who made a trip from Italy to attend (and visit family), Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay and representatives from the major sponsors including RACV Inverloch, carservice.com.au, Cross Over Cycles, Wheel Heat, Leongatha Cycling Club and Coates Hire.
Despite the recent rain and distressed state of the roads, Slavin said the route was in good condition – though riders were given extra instructions during the safety briefings to stay alert.
“We had to shorten the longest route by 10km,” Slavin said.
“That’s usually 121km but because of a landslide on the Glen Alvie Road we bypassed that route.
“Overall the roads are in good condition – Bass Coast Shire Council and VicRoads have gone out and checked the route and done as much as they can.
“We appreciate them doing that considering how big their workload is this week!”